By: Chris O'Shea
Ever wonder why Christmas and other events revolving around gifts are treasured? No, you brat. It's not because you get a bunch of cool new stuff. In fact, think about it — how good are the gifts you get? We wouldn't exactly count the reindeer oven mitts as something that brings joy. The real reason holidays and birthdays are exciting and pleasurable is because we're spending money on others. At least that's according to two physiologists and one Harvard business school graduate.
In a paper published titled "Prosocial Spending and Happiness: Using Money to Benefit Others Pays Off," Elizabeth Dunn and Lara Aknin, (psychologists) along with Michael Norton (Harvard), explain that providing aid to others helps people in pretty much every way possible. "[The benefits of giving to others] are evident in givers old and young in countries around the world, and extend to not only subjective well-being, but also objective health," wrote the trio.
To prove this theory, Dunn, Aknin and Norton analyzed data from a few different studies.
In one experiment, participants were given either $5 or $20 to spend by the end of the day. One group was told to spend it on themselves, the other group was told to spend it on someone else. After giving away the cash, both groups were asked to complete surveys on happiness. Each person in the group that gave away the money — no matter if it was $5 or $20 — reported being happier than those who spent it on themselves.
Another study considered by the trio focused on children. According to its data, kids were happiest when being charitable. The research was actually conducted by Aknin. She theorized that if the emotional benefits of giving to others was observable in adults, it should be noticeable in kids as well. "Consistent with this hypothesis, the present study finds that before the age of two, toddlers exhibit greater happiness when giving treats to others than receiving treats themselves" Aknin wrote the study's original summary.
The last study cited in the report, found that the subjects were able increase their happiness when they gave more money away, although it was dependent on the giver having control over just how more cash to give, While that seems to imply people are stingy bastards, it's still worth noting that the benefits were observable.
What's the takeaway from all this data? Well, Dunn, Aknin and Horton say it can help charities by giving them better insights into how they can garner more donations from people. But we say it shows that you should buy us more gifts this year. It'll make you feel better!
[Image via Flickr - Bfishadow]